SEATTLE - Andy Dalton threw for a career-high 418 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver John Ross in a 21-20 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.
Ross also enjoyed a career day finishing with seven receptions and 158 yards to go with a pair of highlight reel scores.
Already playing without A.J. Green and their top two left tackles, the Bengals lost running back Joe Mixon to an ankle injury in the second half. Dalton responded with his first career 400-yard game that put his team on the doorstep of a stunning Opening Day upset.
As the clock ticked under eight minutes left, Dalton, leading a 13-play, eight-minute drive down, 21-17, had a first down on the Seattle four after rookie wide receiver Damion Willis was interfered with on third-and-six. Getting a huge lift from Ross’ first 100-yard game, Dalton found him for seven yards on a third-and-six screen to keep that drive alive.
But he couldn’t get a red-zone touchdown on their first three trips inside the 20. This drive blew up when left tackle Andre Smith was called for a hold on running back Giovani Bernard’s second-and-goal run and they had to settle for Randy Bullock’s field goal that cut it to 21-20 with seven minutes left.
The Bengals’ sixth three-and-out of the frustrated Wilson gave the ball back to the Bengals with 5:30 left. But all Dalton could manage was a pass to Willis that put him over the 400-yard mark. Facing second and third down, Dalton had his passes batted down by the middle of the line and with 3:30 left.
Then on third-and-one and out of timeouts, the Bengals run defense buckled for the first time and gave up a 21-yard run.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle’s resident magic man, needed every trick in his bag against a Cincinnati defense that offered a play-off-like effort in holding him to 150 yards in the first three quarters. He converted an unbelievable third-down pass before hitting wide receiver Tyler Lockett on a 44-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter when Lockett got behind safety Jessie Bates.
A downpour early in the third quarter was the only thing that ruffled the Bengals and even that didn’t stop their relentless defense that signed this game with a bold flourish. After middle linebacker Preston Brown forced a fumble that cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick carried 11 yards to the Seattle 28, Dalton saw the ball slip out of his hands on a play that began at the Seattle 12 that fell into the arms of the Seattle defensive line for a red-zone turnover
The Seattle suffered its fourth three-and-out as a downpour enveloped the stadium and the Bengals running game was going nowhere. The only play they got was Bernard’s wondrous 35-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-seven screen that Dalton barely was able to shove over the on-rushing mitts of defensive end Quinton Jefferson.
With the ball at the Seattle 33 and the ground sopping on third-and-eight, head coach Zac Taylor opted for a run to set up Bullock’s 45-yard field goal try and he hooked it left.
But no problem because that put the defense back on the field and they the Bengals pumped out another three-and-out, their fifth, and this was courtesy of back-to-back sacks on first- and second-down, the first by a Kirkpatrick blitz and the second on right end Sam Hubbard’s second sack of the game. At that point Seattle had just 120 yards, but the offense couldn’t put it away.
On the next drive, a 24-yard pass to Ross (giving him 132 on the day), an 11-yard run by Bernard and a nine-yard screen to tight end C.J. Uzomah put them on the Seattle 36.
But the wet field betrayed them. Uzomah would have got the first down on his screen if he didn’t slip. Then on third-and-one, wide receiver Tyler Boyd was open for the first down, but he slipped before the ball got to him. On fourth-and-one with 2:01 left, Bernard got stuffed on a zone read, leaving them heading into the fourth quarter with just 29 rushing yards. They were in the game because of Dalton’s 347 yards on 25 of 36 passing.
The Bengals stunned the Seahawks, not to mention the pundits, with seven seconds left on Ross’ leaping 55-yard touchdown catch Sunday with seven seconds left in a half the Bengals took a 17-14 halftime lead.
One snap after Ross dropped a wide-open ball on the sideline that would have put the Bengals in field goal range, he went airborne at the five over transfixed safety Tedric Thompson for the longest catch of his three-year NFL career in front of a CenturyLink Field crowd that saw him play at the nearby University of Washington. They had also just witnessed his second touchdown catch of the day to give him 100 yards (108) for the first time in his career.
Ross gave the Bengals a 14-10 lead about five minutes before when running back Giovani Bernard shoveled a hand off back to Dalton for a 33-yard flea flicker featuring Ross racing past linebacker Mychal Kendricks for the touchdown.
Not exactly the way Taylor was supposed to call the plays, right? Of the first 32 plays in the Taylor era, 26 were passes as Dalton hit 18 of them for 245 yards while Mixon had five carries for nine yards.
But the backs contributed. Ross’ flea flicker was set up on Dalton’s 36-yard pass to Uzomah. Uzomah made a great catch as he came back for the ball under huge duress, but Bernard helped stave them off to go give Dalton just enough time.
Ross’ fireworks overcame a creative, stout effort by a Bengals defense that held Seattle’s No. rushing offense to just 40 yards. The Bengals ran five defensive linemen out there and there were snaps the Bengals didn’t have a linebacker out there.
With 1:53 left in the first half the Bengals defense had held Wilson got the ball back with just 46 passing yards in a game the Bengals were leading, 10-7. But after Kirkpatrick was called for unsportsman-like conduct on an ill-advised post-snap shove, Wilson beat a blitz with a 42-yard pass to rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf taking a go route away from cornerback William Jackson.
Then on third down, the Bengals had running back Chris Carson dead to right, but Kirkpatrick and Bates missed the tackle and Carson converted for a touchdown that gave Seattle a 14-10 lead with 52 second left.
On their first 19 plays of the season, Taylor flew in the face of his pedigree and threw it 16 times while Mixon carried it three times for four yards.
But Dalton killed them softly with 10 completions under the zone to five different receivers as Taylor spread them out. The rebuilt offensive line didn’t flinch in that first quarter and offered no false starts in the first half in a building foes have been called for 176 of them in the last 112 games.
The Bengals did get called for a hold (rookie tight end Drew Sample on one of his first NFL snaps), but Dalton hooked up Ross underneath for a 20-yard reception with play-action aiding his time in the pocket. They needed a hitting the kicker call to keep the drive alive when Bengals punter Kevin Huber got spilled and the Bengals did get a 13-play, field-goal drive out of it.
Using primarily two tight-end sets, Dalton took shots on quick slants with Boyd racking up five catches for 46 yards in the first quarter and Willis converted a third down on his first NFL catch that was a quick hitter over the middle to set up Bullock’s 39-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead.
The Bengals rolled out a nickel package with no linebackers on their first third down and went with three safeties as Clayton Fejedelem checked in to join the three corners and five defensive linemen.
That came after a second down defensive tackle Geno Atkins hit Wilson as he was getting rid of it for an incompletion to set up the third-and-nine and Kirkpatrick was draped all over Metcalf for the third down incompletion. Not only that, but safety Shawn Williams was wearing the helmet communicator, which told you that wasn’t going to be the only snap without a linebacker.
Wilson didn’t touch it for another 7:38 and by that time the Bengals had run 19 plays to Seattle’s three and got that field goal. But with first-year defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo rolling out five defensive linemen, the Bengals began the game with their second straight three-and-out featuring left end Carlos Dunlap’s free-runner of a sack of Wilson off a tight end release.
But that great stand got spoiled when the Bengals were called for two illegal blocks on a punt that wide receiver Alex Erickson fumbled while running at his own 43.
The first quarter of the season ended with Seattle getting its first down of a game Cincinnati had the ball for 10:47.
But a sack by right end Sam Hubbard and a rush by nose tackle Andrew Billings pushed them out of field-goal range and a third-down blitz for Seattle’s third straight punt as the second quarter opened.
Seattle got just 12 yards on its first 12 snaps, but then broke out for double-digit plays that set up their lone touchdown of the half, aided by a pass interference call on cornerback B.W. Webb working against Metcalf.
View game action photo of the Bengals' 2019 season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.